In Malawi, the majority of rural secondary schools have no access to electricity. Many of these schools have evening study sessions during which time they use kerosene lanterns to provide lighting. Due to the irregular availbility of kerosene and its high cost lighting is provided, at best, on a sporadic basis. In addition, the light provided by these lanterns is generally poor and the smoke from the lanterns is a health problem for many of the students. The limited study time results in the pass rate for the students on their national exams being extremely low. Details and comments from some of these schools are available at Malawi school comments.
LED Africa's project is to provide solar powered lighting systems to these rural secondary schools in Malawi. The lighting system is installed in two classrooms at each of the schools. Each classroom lighting system consists of a solar panel, a battery with controller and eight LED lanterns. The LED Africa system provides enough lighting for approximately 50 students in each classroom for up to 3 hours per evening. The cost for the components and installation of the solar powered lighting system for a single classroom is $1300.
The solar panels, the batteries, and cables are purchased from suppliers within Malawi. The battery box and the stands for the LED lanterns are built by local Malawian carpenters. The lanterns are all assembled in Malawi by Malawians. After the system is installed, local Malawian staff are responsible for maintenance visits and replacing the batteries (required every 2 years). The schools pay an annual fee of approximately $60 per classroom which helps to cover these costs. This fee is typically less than what the schools had been paying for kerosene for their old lanterns.
Since 2009, LED Africa and our donors have installed the lighting systems in twenty rural secondary schools in Malawi. As a result the average pass rate at many of these schools on the National exams has risen substantially. In addition, for the first time in the history of some of these schools, students have qualified to go on to the National University.